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Meet Lorena Miranda of Sonder and Holliday in Miami Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lorena Miranda.

Lorena, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was an international steel trader for about eight years and used to travel around the world. When I had free time, I would go to local markets and do a little shopping. That is where I discovered artisans that made amazing crafts, things that if packaged nicely and placed on a shelf of a high-end boutique I would pay a premium for.

These artisans, however, were having a hard time meeting life’s minimum requirements like food on the table, shelter, and education for their children. That is where the idea started to help figure out a way to bridge the gap between them and people like me, people who love luxury and care about where and by whom their products are made.

The idea was to introduce artisans to new ways of creating products that could fetch a high price in prime markets like the US and Europe and like that we could help empower them to propel themselves out of poverty. I often times say that what these people need more than aid is trade because they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves…. They just need a little “Umph.”

Over the last three years, this little side business evolved into a powerhouse for a lot of vulnerable people living in rural areas. In June, I went to Ghana where our popular Victoria Baskets are made. After three flights, 4-hour truck ride, and two hours on the back of a scooter, I arrived. I was floored when I saw the conditions in which these people live and work.

It is impossible to build a business and work your way out of poverty when you don’t have basics like a printer because you don’t have electricity. I knew I had to help change that. Upon my return, we worked on a way to integrate being a catalyst for their development into our business model. I believe that in a modern and progressive time like 2018, no one on the planet should be too poor to live, especially if they have a marketable skill.

Today, we are working on just that. It is our goal to help them rebuild their weaving center into an education center that will have things like plumbing, toilets, wifi, electricity, and information about the importance of hygiene and washing hands, ways to improve weaving technique, business education, and free educational seminars on how to use the internet, computers, create new designs, plus other things that make a living in that part of the world easier.

Has it been a smooth road?
I am always asked by savvy business people why I chose such a hard thing when there are much easier ways to build a business and make money. I always respond that, first of all, I didn’t choose this, it chose me. Seven billion people on the planet and I end up in front of this village in Ghana. I didn’t think that was a coincidence. Second, where they see challenges, I see serious opportunities and third, when I went to Ghana I understood for the first time in this entire journey that I am a vessel- I have been allowed the privilege to use my skills and talent for the betterment of others.

Over time, I began the process of learning about artisans, their abilities, and how we could get them to market. The hardest part, I realized early on, was getting a group of people who tend to be of low to no education and from a rural area to produce a product that is not a typical aesthetic of theirs. After that, the next hard thing was getting them to replicate it over and over and perfectly.

It was the most daunting task of this entire startup because I understood that there is no point in scaling if I could not deliver. Aside from the operational issues we’ve had as we’ve grown, money and time are always scarce, and we struggled pinpointing exactly what kind of brand we wanted to be. Considering that the market is supersaturated, figuring out how to stand out was crucial. I think we did that.

Today, we are embarking on a mission to bring our customers, supporters, and followers along as we help people help themselves into a better way of life via the production and sale of our products.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Sonder and Holliday – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are a socially conscious travel and resort line of goods that are designed in Miami and made around the world with the intention of profoundly and positively impacting the communities we source from via trade and business education. Our specialization is on handwoven straw hats from Ecuador, Baskets made in Ghana, and long brim hats from Madagascar along with hat accessories made in Miami, Kenya, Brazil, and in collaboration with different designers and jewelers.

I am the proudest of how we have evolved and how we have engaged others. People should know the story behind where their products come from. Many times people see a problem and think it is so big, and so far away they feel helpless when in fact, it is very easy to make a deep impact by simply supporting the work these villagers make in a fair way.

We strive to not only pay our people equitably but also reinvest in their communities in a fashion that it is understood by them that this investment was brought by their work, not charity. It is crucial to us that they know their skills have value, especially since a lot of these people are accustomed to a certain level of acceptable exploitation, which is one of the reasons why they stay stuck in the cycle of poverty.

What sets us apart: we bring people along with us. We show them how the items are made, why it is important, and of course, why it MUST be in your wardrobe. Our prices are an accessible luxury range because these items take time and should be respected. Just because something comes from a rural part of the world doesn’t mean it isn’t as luxury grade as something made in Italy or Paris, for example.

 

We want to change that narrative. Our products speak for themselves. The story behind our products is so compelling that the sale of the product follows it. Once I switched my focus from profits to people, everything in our business changed for the better. Between my personal growth and my business growth and how the two aligned, I am swollen with pride.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I believe Miami is the most unique city in the country because this is the only place where you can feel the tropics and a flair for Latin America and all her ranges of cultures. Plainly put, we are a glamorous city in the Caribbean.

What I like least: the income gap and the widening of it.

Our Dupont bands, which are made in Miami are made by senior ladies I hire to work from home so that they can supplement their income at their pace because living in Miami and being poor is a very unfortunate mix that far too many in our city have to deal with.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Isaac Zapata (In the Blue Dress only)

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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